Friday, 19 August 2016
By Nick Mangwana
There have been a few headlining statement by top government officials who have lamented what they perceive to be subversive actions by members of the Zimbabwean Diaspora community. Some of those that are very vocal have declared their love for their country and their aversion for their government. There is nothing amiss there.
It is just as some of us have declared our support for party, government and country. That is the freedom that was fought for. If it is ok for us to risk all in support of our party and government, but is equally good for others to choose a different trajectory as well. What is wrong is when one’s dislikes their government they want harm to happen to their country so as to bring down that government.
When they don’t care who gets hurt as long as they achieve their goal to see the back of a Zanu PF government. Now there is something unpatriotic about that. There is possibly something treasonous about undermining all the efforts to make a country a success by sabotaging everything that the government put in place to improve the fortunes of the country. When people make sure they contrive and manufacture lies, exaggerate some things and distort others just hoping this will bring Zimbabwe down and with it Zanu PF that cannot be said to be patriotic. That is an abuse of freedoms. But having said that, it should be noted that there is nothing inconsistent about loving one’s country and not liking one’s government.
Some Zimbabweans appear conflicted. They are proudly Zimbabwean but disconcerted by what they believe to be retrogressive actions of their government. There is nothing wrong with wanting what’s best for one’s country. The perceived over-involvement of the diaspora in the affairs of their country is not because of lack of patriotism. It is because of patriotism. They are not trying to control their country using a remote device called a smartphones. They have seen the goodness in other countries. They just want it for theirs too.
Diasporans do just not love Zimbabwe, hate inequalities and injustice because they are poor. There are many members of the Zimbabwean Diaspora who are members of Zanu PF and have never asked for a single thing in return for defending the establishment. On the contrary, they have used a lot of their moneys for their causes. That is not because they are poor. It is because they have made it wherever they are based. Zimbabweans have the right to comment on matters at home. Any statements calculated to disenfranchise them are not only wrong but unhelpful. Viewing the Zimbabwean Diaspora as a homogenous formless lump of losers and social misfits, labouring in menial jobs in foreign countries misses the full character of the composition of the Diaspora. It evidences a lot ignorance in the establishment. It also exposes a lot of dysfunction within the corridors of power.
We have on one hand the government saying Zimbabwe’s prospects will be enhanced by its citizens who have accumulated houses, assets and skills in other countries and they need to be engaged and their potential harnessed for the success of the country. A ministry is then assigned to draft a Diaspora Policy for that reason. Expensive trips are made to the Diaspora and serious per diem claims are lodged at an even higher cost to the fiscus. A whole cabinet sits and goes through this policy because it realises that there is a lot of patriotism, human and financial capital in the diaspora. The Diaspora interprets these signs as good moves by a government that has seen the good that can come from involving each and every Zimbabwean regardless of their geographical location to rebuild their country.
The Diaspora then contributes to the political discourse. Some in support, some very vocally in opposition and others in a way not very favourable to the establishment. What's the next thing that happens? Some officials deploy the tried and tested default. Pejorative statements and insults are issued and suddenly they are experts on the Diaspora. Just as much as Zimbabweans in the Diaspora should not take at face value everything they read or see on social media about our home country, those at home should not believe all the stereotypes they read or hear about the lives of the Diasporans abroad. Maybe it can help if all the efforts to engage the Diaspora is spearheaded by a Diasporan or former Diasporan.
You surely can’t treat the Diaspora as worthy Zimbabweans when it comes to their money and then an irritating inconvenience when their politics takes a different course to what we would have wanted. Our policies and our utterances have to be consistently in sync. This is actually a novelty in our country for it hardly every happens. Our technocrats and bureaucrats are pursuing certain agreed policies. The public pronouncements by other officials especially the political breed is completely at variance with that policy. How does that work?
In the midst of trying to build bridges with the West, we are insulting them like there is no tomorrow. In the midst of reaching out to the Diaspora to help invest and rebuild our country we insult and threaten them like tomorrow never comes! How does that work? The one big problem, of which the Government of Zimbabwe has been rightly accused of, is its inconsistency. How can we build trust if we are inconsistent? We have to make it our culture to say something that we mean and to mean what we say. But no, we are consistently, inconsistent.
The Diaspora should vigorously support their country but do have a right to vigorously oppose their government if they don’t agree with the direction it is taking their country. That applies not only to those Zimbabweans outside the country. It applies to those within the country and those within the party as well. It is this kind of thing that enriches our country’s intellectual body.
First published in the Zanu PF Mouthpiece, The People's Voice 19-26 August 2016